We always eat what we expect our kids to eat, don't praise for eating veggies and don't withhold treats. Our kids LOVE broccoli.

Eating

The dinner table doesn't have to be a battlefield. You don't need to fight with kids over food. People either divert their kids attention away from food (distraction) or pay too much attention to it (obsession). Clear the dinner table so there is only food on it. No toys, no crafts, just food. Everyone at the dinner table must eat the exact same food. Hang out at the farmers market often. Picky eating in the land if plenty starts when parents don't eat food out of preference (not due to medical reasons) and make a big deal about food in general.

Don't say "oh, that's yummy" about something that the child doesn't eat just to coax him into liking it. He will know that it's only a trick to get him to eat it. They don't like to be fooled and will resist even harder. And the truth to be told nothing must be eaten. If they don't eat, wait a bit, take away the food and end feeding time. The worst thing to do is to offer another kind of food. Offering another food will send a clear message to kids: If I don't like something, they will bring me something else, something I like. Eventually this will narrow down food selection to ice cream. Kids should eat what they are given without questioning why. Why is this for lunch? Because this is what we cooked today. Praising for eating should also be avoided. If you forget to praise your kid once and he/she will feel that something is wrong and won't eat. Why praise anyone for eating a healthy meal that was given to them? Food should be a low-key part of life, something we do because we have to eat in order to survive. Not because we're told to eat, or because if we eat we get to do "X".

Speaking of low-key...don't make a big deal about ice cream and sigh at the sight of broccoli. If one type of food is constantly surrounded by laughter and served as a reward of course every kid will prefer it over a group of foods that is always offered as a "must eat" and the parents feel full of doubt and anxiety when those foods are being served.

This is how it works in our house with a 16 month old: we prepare and give her food at her high chair and never at other random places. She learned a long time ago that her high chair is the place to eat. We eat together whenever possible, that way she sees that we eat too, copies us and copying is what these tiny creatures are really good at. Whatever food she fligns across the room or delibareatly throws on the floor never gets replaced so she learned that if she plans to eat she should do just that. Vegetables and cookies, fruit and meat are all treated as equal. We never encourage her to eat, don't tell her how yummy broccoli is, don't try to make her finish any meal, never praise her for eating and don't give her pink butterfly shaped children's food. She eats what we eat unless it's too hard for her to chew or it's too spicy. We never once had a problem with eating. She eats beets, peppers, fish, meat, peas, jam, cold cuts, pickles, bananas, kiwi, pears, crackers, cheese, yoghurt - anything, really. Andrew eats the exact same foods now that he's 17 months old.

Update: now that our daughter is 27 months old, she decided to say "no" to a few different foods for no apparent reason (well, maybe she saw other kids). It turned out this was because she wasn't involved in sourcing, preparing, serving and cleaning up. She wants to do everything on her own and wants to eat from an adult plate with adult utensils on an adult chair from a lidless cup. So be it. Let her enjoy spreading cream cheese on the bread and eat with a metal spoon, spill a few drinks, stir her own lemonde, pour her own juice, get her own plate from the bottom drawer, wipe the table after dinner and so on. She eats much more when she is involved in the dinner making process and a lot more variety, too.

Update: 4years 3 months. We're cruising. She eats anything. Well, almost anything. Clears her plate, brings it back to the kitchen, wipes the table and only leaves food behind when she's not hungry and we trust her to tell us when she's not hungry. We religiously go to the farmers market from spring to fall and to the indoor market in the winter and sample all sorts of foods and chat with the vendors so she understands where food really comes from. I continue to buy any strange food I can find to expose her to the widest possible variety of foods and drinks. We squeeze, chop, mix, mush, drain, sift, pour, lick and break all sorts of food in the kitchen by her little table and have loads of fun! We serve small portions so that way she isn't conditioned to always leave food behind (if she's hungry she'll ask for more). And we ask that if a strange or new food is on table she gives it a fair try - doesn't have to eat it all but needs to give it a try. Snack food is virtually non existent save for an occassional bowl of crackers here and there and chocolate and candy is perfecly OK to eat in moderation. We also signed up for a service where a lady (met her at a farmers market) bring three days' worth of raw, organic, local dinner ingredients on Mondays. What an awesome service! And it doesn't cost more than buying the food ourselves because there is no waste: every ingredient is measured to be only what we need. I cannot buy a quarer of a cantaloupe and a pinch of dry parsley leaves and 1oz of sour cream at the store! And guess what this service does? It further broadens our culinary horizons because many foods and recipies we would never think of ourselves. I would never think of cooking with mint leaves or a bulb of fennel. This food service also helped my wife try and cook new foods and now that she eats the same foods all the time as the rest of us it really helps to ensure that the little one also eats the same foods.

Update: 5years and 2 months. For no apparent reason she decided to dislike liverwurst and soup. Crazier things have happened I'm sure:) No issues with eating - the only food related problem I have is making lunches for SK every single day. And not like this will stop anytime soon. Why can't they cook at school?!

Another few things: Let toddlers (and older kids) take their time eating. They are just learning to hold a spoon or a bottle or a fork, etc. - don't rush them please. They are tiny and need more time to eat. Also, we let our daugher get messy when she eats. That way she focuses on eating and not getting distracted by wet wipes and anxious parents when there is a little bit of peanut butter in her hair or on the wall. She is surely - hopefully:) - not thinking "I will now smudge strawberry jam on the wallpaper to give my parents a hard time when they need to scrub it off - take that, hah!".

Finally, under no circumstance should we say "eat your carrots or else you get no cake". Guess what - they will never, ever eat carrot ever unless there is cake later.

Also, eat the same foods as you give to your kids and don't make excuses that just because "this and that" you - as a parent - can leave spinach behind or add extra syrup on your French toast. Everyone around the table should eat and drink the same food. Kids are copycats, they want to like their parents so if you eat your veggies they will, too. (Before we can discipline others we need to learn to discipline ourselves).

Wasting food

Teach children to respect and value food. Not everybody, everywhere has the privilige to eat whatever they feel like. Food should not be taken for granted. At restaurants I see people leaving so much food behind sometimes I wonder if they touched their food at all or just ordered it for fun. Grrraah!